Should We Burn Ray Bradbury’s Books?

f451

Book cover for Ray Bradbury’s novel “Fahrenheit 451.”

I just read an essay by Katie Naum at the Electric Lit website called The New ‘Fahrenheit 451’ Movie Fails to Reckon with Bradbury’s Racism.

First of all, I had no idea HBO had remade the film adaptation of Bradbury’s classic novel (I have seen the 1966 film version, and of course I’ve read the novel a number of times). Secondly, Ms. Naum and I seem to have read very different novels titled Fahrenheit 451 and authored by Ray Bradbury.

Here’s what I mean, quoting from Naum’s essay:

I still have that same copy of Fahrenheit 451 — a trade paperback edition printed circa 1993, whose creased cover and flammable pages are already yellowed and crumbling. I reread it prior to watching the new film version, starring Michael B. Jordan as protagonist Guy Montag, and Michael Shannon as his boss — and ultimately, the bad guy — Captain Beatty. The novel was largely as I remembered it, until I got to the end. At the back of the book, there are a few pages Bradbury wrote decades later, in 1979, where he gets into what he thinks the real threat to literature is. I’d forgotten that reading this coda as a child always left me feeling uncomfortable, in a way I couldn’t fully interpret yet.

He is angry at a “solemn young Vassar lady” who asked whether he might write more female characters. He is angry at other readers who disapprove of how he wrote “the blacks” in one of his stories. He is angry at “the Irish,” “the Chicano intellectuals,” at “every minority” that has some perspective on his stories at variance with his. In his own words, every last one of them “feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse…. Fire-Captain Beatty, in my novel Fahrenheit 451, described how the books were burned first by minorities, each ripping a page or a paragraph from this book, then that, until the day came when the books were empty and the minds shut and the libraries closed forever.”

Sorry for the lengthy quote, but I wanted to provide enough specific information to convey the issue at hand.

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Is There a God in the Moon?

dark moon

Photo credit: Duks Visuals

Tristan Schaefer wasn’t sure if this was magic or just the drugs kicking in. Vixia’s single moon Tatis always seemed unusually large in the sky when it was full, especially compared to Earth’s, but now it was impossibly reflective, as if the forest were perfectly mirrored and inverted on its surface.

“Izola!” Where was she? His wife had been with him just a second ago, but she had vanished and so had their campsite.

The Ambia Country spiritual excursion was supposed to be the highlight of their tour of the colony planet. Only one person out of two who entered the park were allowed to inhale the Mist to seek out the Way, the conduit to the spirit realm. Izola was supposed to keep him rooted in the physical plane so he wouldn’t lose himself in the vision. She promised she would be with him every second, but it couldn’t have been more than fifteen minutes since he first inhaled the psychedelic they’d purchased with their tickets at the park entrance . Where could she have gone?

“Merhaba, Traveler.”

He’d been staring at a flight of birds crossing the gray and black moon and hadn’t noticed the man approach. He was an Indigenous. No one knew what they called themselves, and the colonists had to call them something.

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Be Careful What You Tweet

roseanne barr

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – MARCH 23: Roseanne Barr at the “Roseanne” Press Conference at the Four Seasons Hotel on March 23, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Vera Anderson/WireImage)

Warning: This is a commentary, not a piece of fiction. If you came here for the fiction, this brief essay may not be for you.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Roseanne Barr major twitter gaffe that got her show cancelled, the whole Colin Kaepernick “taking the knee” protests, and how ABC and the NFL have respectively responded to them, all in terms of Free Speech Rights.

First let’s get something out of the way. What’s the short definition of Free Speech Rights? According to Wikipedia, it is:

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution declares, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It’s actually a lot more complicated and nuanced than that, but let’s roll with what I’ve just quoted.

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Returning to Life

ferry

Photo credit: Dorothy

They seemed just two more Asian tourists sitting on a bench watching the ferry at Angel Island.

“When did you die here?” During her lifetime, she would never have asked such as direct question of a man, but death is very liberating.

“1899.” He was staring at the ferry and the multinational conglomeration of visitors, all happily chattering and oblivious to the history they were walking upon. “I had been a dock worker and got the plague. They sent me here for quarantine, but I was also sent here to die. You?”

“1922 when the island was an immigration station. I was suspected of having a disease, but I actually got a parasite from another Chinese immigrant. I suffered on the island eighteen months before I died.”

“How many others like us do you think are here?” He turned toward her finally, noticing that like him, she was dressed in modern clothing.

“Too many, but most won’t let go of the past.”

“If you’re ready, we can rejoin the living.”

They stood and held hands. “Yes, let’s.”

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge Week of April 3, 2018 hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt to craft a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

I was stuck about where the photo was actually taken, so I made something up.

When I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, I visited Angel Island many times. It’s accessible by ferry and you can take bicycles and ride around the entire island. It has a very interesting history, some of it very grim.

You can read the details of both when the island was used as a Quarantine Station and later as an Immigration Station (people could be held on the island for anywhere between two weeks and two years) for the context of my two characters.

In this case, I’ve given my couple a second chance at life, though I’ve kept the mechanism of how deliberately vague. If you can learn to let go of the pain of the past, you might find your way back to a new life and the rest of your future.

Guilty confession. I read this story before crafting my own and yes, it influenced me. My bad.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

Metzger’s World

planet

Image: hongkiat.com

“…6:00 in the morning yawning and laying down next to you…”

“Come here, Kiara. About time you got home…wait. What’s wrong?” Travis Bridges pulled his wife close to him in their bed. It was six in the morning ship’s time but she’d just come off of her duty shift planetside at the Metzger colony.

Kiara buried her face in Travis’ chest and sobbed. He could barely hear her muffled words, “It was horrible, Trav. Chief Spencer tried to warn us, but none of us thought it would be that bad.”

“What are you talking about? What’s so bad about servicing the colony’s power distribution system? I mean, we do contract with the colony worlds in this sector to maintain their tech.”

“You don’t know about Metzger, do you?” She looked up. Her dark eyes dilated in the dim light were ebony pools he could swim in.

“I read the general briefing on the colony. They’re isolationists and a little xenophobic and…”

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The Man Over the Far Side of the Moon

Apollo 15

Photo of the Apollo 15 command module above the Moon piloted by Al Worden – Photo credit: NASA

Air Force Major Ezekiel “Zeke” Johnson watched the LEM drop away from the Command Module as he approached the terminator that would take him over the far side of the Moon.

“Hey, Zeke. You hearing what I’m hearing?” Colonel Clay Philips, the mission’s commander sounded like a kid on Christmas morning when anyone else would have at least been a little bit worried.

“I sure do, and I remember the briefing. It’s just interference.”

“That’s right.” Captain Brian Osborne, sitting in the LEM’s number two seat chimed in. “It’s caused by VHF radio interference between the LEM and the Command Module. Really does sound like alien music, though.”

Zeke laughed. “I’ll try to keep that in mind when I’m out of radio contact with you and Earth for the next hour or so.”

“Not scared of those nasty old BEMs, are you Zeke?” Philips was laughing with him or was that at him?

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The Switch

mlk

The Google “doodle” for Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2018

Nevada Drivers Licences

Corey March
1983 Escondido Street, Apt. 2A
Las Vegas, NV 89119
Sex M, Hgt 5’11, Wgt 160
Eyes Blu, Hair Brn
DOB 02/27/1997

Eddie Brown
5549 Doolittle Avenue, Apt. 11
Las Vegas, NV 89108
Sex M, Hgt 6’1, Wgt 200
Eyes Brn, Hair Blk
DOB 06/21/1997

“Let no man pull you low enough to hate him.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

There was a time when a person’s race might have been listed on a state driver’s license, but those days are gone. The tiny mug shot on the left side of the document tells the tale, assuming it says anything at all. However, Corey’s driver’s license photo shows a smiling white kid with the tips of his blond hair dyed purple while Eddie’s photo shows an equally cheerful looking African-American youth.

Corey woke up realizing it was Monday and hating that fact because his first class, American History, was at nine in the morning. He didn’t like mornings, especially when he’d been up past eleven drinking beer and playing “Doom” with his roommate Johnny. Oddly enough, he didn’t have a hangover and didn’t even feel all that tired, but those clues weren’t sufficient.

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The True Origin of Captain America

will smith captain america

Actor Will Smith depicted as Captain America

“You must be the puniest nigger I’ve ever seen, boy. What’s your name again?”

“Johnson, Samuel G., Private, Sir.”

Sam Johnson was the most unlikely soldier in his unit, but then again, he would have been an unlikely soldier in any army in the world. He’d suffered from a number of ailments in childhood including rheumatic fever. His family was poor. Papa died when he was only a baby and Mama had to work three jobs just to keep him fed. They had no money for doctors and his old Aunt Bessie said it was only Mama’s love that kept him alive.

He grew up but not very much. He was tall, but thin, his clothes fitting him like loose blankets. Because of his ill-health, he wasn’t fit for much hard work, but what he lacked in muscle, he made up for in heart and determination.

Like most colored folk, he expected the white folk to call him “nigger,” “coon,” and the like, and he took more than his fair share of beatings, not just because he was a colored man, but because he fought back. To say he fought back meant that he had the will, but he could no more throw a solid punch than Josephine Baker could win the Miss America Pagent.

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The Night They Burned “The Cat in the Hat”

book burning

Found at Blunderbuss Magazine

The older couple held hands and cried at the book burning party. Like everyone else in town, they were compelled by government edict to attend and witness the “liberating” event. Only State approved books were allowed in schools anymore. The State had been collecting those publications deemed “racist,” “sexist,” and every other forbidden “ist” on their list and storing them in a warehouse near the town square just for this occasion.

Fortunately, children under six were exempt from attending, so their grandkids were spared this atrocity, being cared for at home by their son.

“How did the world come to this, Jeannie? I thought book burning went out with the Nazis.”

“There are always Nazis, Mike. They’re just called by different names.”

“What a terrible world we live in.”

“At least they’re not kicking down our front door and confiscating our library.”

“That’s true, darling. But we have to keep reminding the little ones not to tell their teachers what we read to them at home.”

“Do you think it will ever get better, Mike?”

“As long as we teach Jimmy and Autumn to grow up as critical thinkers, to trust themselves and those who love them rather than the State, then yes, it will. Someday they’ll be running the nation and then it won’t be the State anymore. It’ll be a free country again.”

“We won’t live to see it, will we?”

“Probably not, Jeannie, but our grandchildren will. Our hope for the future is in them.

I haven’t gotten blatantly political on this blog in quite some time, but I read a series of stories in social media this morning that bothered me, and when I’m bothered, I process my thoughts and emotions by writing (some authors have told me they are “blocked” when they become upset which just astounds me).

It all started with a story I found on Facebook published by a conservative news agency. I had to fact check it since news organizations that lean either one direction or the other politically and socially aren’t always totally trustworthy. I found the story published by a number of venues including the Washington Post and it’s called ‘Racist propaganda’: Librarian rejects Melania Trump’s gift of Dr. Seuss books.

You can click on the link I provided above to read the story, but basically, it tells the tale of First Lady Melania Trump donating some books to what I gather to be a rather posh public school in Cambridge, Massachusetts on the occasion of National Read a Book Day. Apparently, the school’s librarian Liz Phipps Soerio took exception to some of the donated books, specifically those penned by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel). You can read Ms. Phipps Soerio’s letter to the First Lady at The Horn Book blog.

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Dreaming of Arabia Terra

mars

Image: Wikipedia

Commander Amanda Nichols was disappointed as she opened the Mars lander’s hatch and saw that her helmet obscured much of her first view of the upland region of Arabia Terra. Major Terry Chang, the lander’s co-pilot who was standing behind her, always referred to the Martian terrain as “planet Nevada,” but for Amanda, the stark beauty and even the romance of Mars far outweighed a more objective observation.

This is supposed to be one of the oldest terrains on the planet, heavily eroded and very densely cratered, which is part of the reason NASA chose this part of the Arabia quadrangle as the landing site of the first human mission. There’s a distinct possibility of studying evidence of tectonic activity and even volcanism here, plus previous robot landers detected the likelihood of ice water under the surface.

To Amanda, the landscape before her looked like God had taken the ancient red crust, rock, and dust in her field of vision and etched, crumpled, and then pounded it, creating a texture and fabric that spoke of a life lived long and hard resulting in a face marked with character and even a hint of majesty rather than merely scars and age.

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